Mort Drecher, my classmate in the aging Prof Ellis Ustinov’s Orchestration and Comp 302 class knew two things very well:
1) He had to receive at least a ‘B’ on the final project in order to pass.
And 2) He hated trombones.”...’the accordian of the brass family” he called them.
And so it was unfortunate that old Dr Ustinov made their appearance in the final composition mandatory, at least by the letter of the law.
Mort thought he could plea-bargain a workaround:
“If I have to write for ‘bones’ it’d be a horror-fest of noise. ‘Farts from a maddening crowd’, I’ll call it” he told me bravely.
“So what ya gonna do?’ I asked him.
“Trust me.” he just smiled. “This oughta work.”
And as the weeks before the deadline went by and he had me helping nights with the task, I had to admit that he did have a Plan.
First of all, he based the piece on a Ukranian folk song, to maybe get on old Ustinov’s good side.
Neither of us cared for the man all that much. In class we often played with his approaching deafness by stage-whispering ‘Ellis… is an Island.’ or “Ustinov… but not so much anymore these days.’ Maybe he read lips, I don’t know but anyway, we had a task before us.
Mort carefully modified the main theme so that the second half, bars 13-24, was an exact mirror image of the starting 12 bars. I thought it was clever, and perhaps alone worthy of a pass on the trombone requirement. My buddy also took my suggestion and named it “To ‘B’ in the ‘C’ of A-zov, in ‘D'” More Ukranian heart-string pulling.
Ok we turned in our projects. Mine, called ‘Tribute to Brubeck‘ (which I just found a week ago up in the dusty attic, got an ‘A-minus’ and a scribbled ‘nicely done’.
Mort, whose college carreer depended to some extent on his grades that term, was nervous as he picked up the graded work. The old professor, who knew very well the cruciality of a high grade, was, as it turned, out ‘not amused’ nor even ‘touched’ as it were.
To the ‘C-‘ grade was appended a scribbled:
‘nice try, but ‘NO TROMBONE NO ‘B’, MORTON’.
Ed: OK some of this is made up. I’m a sucker for a palindrome, and even a short one tromps factuality in my book.
‘Mort’ was in truth Roger Williams the keyboard player in our band ‘Sky-Blue-Pink’ during a house band gig in Niagara Falls NY, shortly after we both dropped out of school that year. Most of the rest is true, actually.
Wu: Only an odd fellow would follow a fallow site like yours, so why worry?
Me: Wuzie!! How’d you find me after all this time?
Wu: Easy. You left a link back on the old Xanga site, where we used to hang out. I did have to wipe the dust off the post to read it though.
Me: Yeah. Sad. We had coloured backgrounds, font-sizing, a Front Page awaiting your every snarky word, all kinda stuff like that there.
Wu: Oh well. Let’s just try to make the best of this trombone of a site.